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Give Up to Go Up

“You have to give up to go up.”

I first heard John Maxwell say this in 1993 in a small leadership conference in Anderson, Indiana. Nearly 20 years later, I couldn’t agree more.

Many of you are pastors, the top dog in your church. You’ve either started the church from scratch, or you’ve come into an existing ministry. You want your church to grow. You may be looking for ideas to give your church a jumpstart. Or perhaps you’ve implemented changes, and the church is starting to grow. Now you want to take it to the next level.

Here’s a startling fact: Many of the things you do to help a small church grow are the very things that will eventually kill the church if you continue doing them. 

That’s right.

A senior pastor who wants nothing more than to see the church grow could, in fact, single-handedly kill its growth.

The entrepreneurial, challenge-driven, adrenaline-addicted personality of the start-up leader will sometimes drive away the very leaders he or she recruited after establishing and growing the organization. That’s because these kinds of leaders often won’t give up to go up. They hang on too tightly to the non-essentials.

I’ve seen Mark Beeson continually decide to give up stuff he loves in order to release the church for growth. It’s not a “once and for all” decision. He’s had to decide this again and again, week after week, year after year.

To a lesser degree, I’ve also had to give up to go up, as the church has grown from 400 in one location to nearly 5,000 with multiple locations and ministries.

Here are some of the things you’ll have to give up in order to release your church to grow:

Give up doing to go up to leading

When a church is starting, the pastor does everything. If a pastor continues to hang on to tasks and fails to empower others, growth will be stifled.

Give up meeting with everyone to go up to priority-based relationships. 

A pastor of a small church has time for everyone. As the church grows, the pastor must be more selective. When the church is very large, the pastor should be spending nearly all of his or her time with staff and top volunteer leaders.

Give up going it alone to go up to team-based leadership. 

Doing tasks by yourself is usually easier. To give up a lone-ranger mentality, you have to believe in your heart that a team is stronger than the sum of its parts.

Give up pet projects to go up to valued-added ministry. 

Mark used to love to create the bulletin. He was good at it. He gave it up so he could focus on doing the things only he could do. I used to run the sound board. I did it well, and it fed my inner geek. But I gave it up to focus on what only I could do.

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Tim Stevens served as the executive pastor of Granger Community Church in Granger, IN, for twenty years before joining Vanderbloemen Search Group as the Director of the Executive Search Consultant Team where he helps churches and ministries around the world find their key staff. Tim has a passion for the local church and equipping leaders with practical advice and tools about church staffing and church leadership. He has co-authored three books with Tony Morgan, including Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers, and Simply Strategic Growth, and authored three books of his own, including Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace. Connect with Tim at LeadingSmart.com.